State News: Foxconn, Organics, Rat Traps

Foxconn Opening Innovation Center in Green Bay

The Taiwanese tech giant building a massive manufacturing plant in southeastern Wisconsin plans to open an innovation center at the WaterMark building in downtown Green Bay along the Fox River by later this year.

The announcement was made June 29 in Green Bay with Gov. Scott Walker, Foxconn Technology Group’s top executives, and other representatives from the state, city of Green Bay and Brown County in attendance.

The company will purchase the six-story, 75,000-square-foot iconic property and transform it into another hub in Wisconsin for Foxconn to develop state-of-the-art technology and foster entrepreneurship.

The company is already building a new 20-million-square-foot, $10 billion display screen manufacturing campus in the Village of Mount Pleasant in Racine County, and earlier this year, Foxconn purchased a downtown Milwaukee building from Northwestern Mutual to house its North America corporate headquarters, as well as the headquarters of the company’s innovation network in the state.

Foxconn will employ more than 200 engineers at the innovation center in Green Bay which will support the manufacturing plant, according to a release from the company.

Foxconn CEO Terry Gou said the company’s goal is to expand its footprint beyond southeastern Wisconsin. “Wherever we will go in Wisconsin, we wish to become a part of the local community (and are) looking forward to the many partnerships and opportunities that will come to Green Bay,” Gou said.


Trump, Walker Break Foxconn Ground

President Donald Trump and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker have grabbed a pair of golden shovels and moved piles of dirt under the hot June sun as part of a ceremonial groundbreaking for the Foxconn Technology Group project on June 28.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Janesville, and the first Wisconsin Foxconn employee Christopher Murdock were the other two men to join Trump, Walker and Foxconn CEO Terry Gou in the ceremonial first digs.

Miles away in downtown Mount Pleasant several hundred protesters, including Democrats hoping to unseat Walker this fall, gathered to disavow the project.

Critics question the state’s commitment to provide up to $4.5 billion in state and local tax incentives to help Foxconn, the most ever by a state to a foreign company. Opponents also worry about the environmental effects of the 20-million-square-foot campus, which will tap Lake Michigan for water. The plant is about 30 miles south of Milwaukee.

Ryan and Walker say Foxconn’s LCD screen manufacturing campus will transform the state’s economy and make it a magnet for millennials.

“This will make us a brain gain state, not a brain drain state,” Walker said.


Supreme Court Upholds Malpractice Damage Cap

The state Supreme Court upheld limits last week on how much injured patients can receive for non-economic medical malpractice damages – or pain and suffering.

The 5-2 ruling upholding the $750,000 cap involved Ascaris Mayo, a woman who lost all four of her limbs due to a severe infection that was not initially detected by a Milwaukee hospital.

Mayo sued the doctors and the state malpractice compensation fund, an account doctors pay into to cover malpractice awards. A jury awarded Mayo $25 million in damages, including $15 million in non-economic damages.

The compensation fund’s attorneys moved to reduce the non-economic damages award to $750,000, the maximum compensation for such damages allowed under state statutes. A state appeals court ruled last year that the cap was unconstitutional.

But the state Supreme Court ruled the cap was indeed constitutional.


Farm Bill Provision Could Protect Against Organic Fraud

Organic industry leaders in Wisconsin are applauding a recently approved version of the Farm Bill for cracking down on fraud. The U.S. Senate passed their version of the legislation on June 28.

Based on legislation introduced by Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin, the bill would require the U.S. Department of Agriculture to update tracking of imported organic agricultural products. Those shipments would be required to have an electronic import certificate, which would be consolidated into an annual report on the total number of organic imports accepted into the U.S.

In the last year, reports of fraud and an internal audit have highlighted the USDA’s failure to enforce organic standards on imports.

John Mesko, executive director of the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service, said the department’s current practices were developed when organic was a small, U.S.-based movement.

“Now we have a much more global organic industry,” Mesko said. “We have lots of people around the world trying to participate in that industry and reap some of the benefits of it. And frankly, we’re behind on our ability to keep up with the technology.”

The Senate farm bill would provide funding to modernize the USDA’s data collection process and create a working group with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.


Brown County Offers Free Rat Traps

Brown County is offering free rat traps to residents in response to what some see as a major rodent problem in the Green Bay area. The city distributed 200 of the lethal traps and is looking to give out the rest in the near future.

Residents have been complaining about rodents for a year, according to Brown County Supervisor Bernie Erickson, who represents District 7 in the northwestern part of Green Bay and where many complaints have come in.

Brown County Supervisor Patrick Evans, who represents District 9 (also covering the city’s northwest side) and is running to be Green Bay’s next mayor, said the city and county tried to educate residents about rat habitat, but said officials feel they must take additional steps to curb the problem.

“Now, we are taking a second step, giving out rat traps,” he said.

He added some problem spots include “the rental properties, the landlords. Those are the areas where people don’t seem to care or want to be involved.”


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